A massive sweep targeting the Eastside Playboys’ gang-run criminal empire led to the arrests of 28 people including the gang’s key shot-caller on racketeering and murder charges, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced on Thursday.
The gangland takedown is the culmination of a multi-year investigation into the outfit that works collaboratively under the umbrella of la eMe, or the Mexican Mafia. The la eMe answer to the operation’s “number one,” prosecutors say, an inmate previously imprisoned for murder who is known as “Big Rabbit.” According to the indictments unsealed on Thursday, Playboys members were often inked with tattoos reading “Playboys,” “PBS,” “ES,” and the Playboy bunny logo; they referred to each other collectively as “Rabbits” or “Rabbit Gang.”
Prosecutors say the main target was Eliseo Luna, of South Los Angeles, who acted as overall leader “for the gang, according to the indictment. The 47-year-old, who used a number of monikers including “Chilo,” “Crazy,” “Toca” and “El Abogado,” allegedly oversaw the Playboys’ drug trafficking activities, gave orders to its general leadership and membership, and authorized the assault and murder of members in bad standing.
The 110-page RICO indictment alleges that four of the defendants participated in a March 2020 home invasion robbery of a marijuana dealer at a residence in Woodland Hills that turned into a wild shootout between the robbers and the victim. The dealer hit one of his attackers with a bullet amid the robbery but the Playboys still made off with about $50,000 in cash and approximately 10 pounds of marijuana.
“The indictments unsealed today charge a gang that stands accused of plaguing South Los Angeles for 50 years through repeated acts of violence, drug trafficking, extortion of local businesses, and weapons violations,” said Acting United States Attorney Stephanie S. Christensen. “Today’s coordinated law enforcement action targeted the Playboys street gang because of its alleged widespread criminal conduct, as well as the fear and intimidation its members imposed on our community.”
The gang is also suspected of moving methamphetamine and fentanyl through the United States Postal Service, FedEx, and United Parcel Service. Some defendants also allegedly distributed cocaine, methamphetamine, fentanyl powder, and counterfeit fentanyl-laced pills in Los Angeles and Orange counties, with some of that product being manufactured at a Playboys-run lab in Long Beach.
Thursday’s raids also took 47 firearms, 199 kilograms of methamphetamine, 13.6 kilograms of fentanyl, 27 kilograms of cocaine, 7.6 kilograms of heroin, and 283 kilograms of marijuana off the streets, along with $140,000 in recovered cash, prosecutors said.
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